Hope Amidst Hardship: Canadian Red Cross Humanitarian Support in Ukraine and Surrounding Countries

The below provides an update on the Red Cross response to the conflict in Ukraine as of December 31, 2023.

The Canadian Red Cross Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal has received more than $215 million CAD donations, which includes $30 million CAD in matching funds provided by the Government of Canada. So, how are these donations being spent? The Canadian Red Cross continues to respond to the humanitarian needs of people impacted with a focus on winterization, health services, psychosocial supportfinancial assistance, and relief items.

For the past two years, people living in Ukraine have grappled with the difficulty of finding safe accommodations, food to support their household, and ways to cope with destruction of their beloved communities

In collaboration with the Ukranian Red Cross Society and Red Cross Red Crescent Movement partners around the globe, the Canadian Red Cross has contributed to programs and services dedicated to assist in humanitarian efforts.
Two people wearing Red Cross apparel engage in conversation with an individual.
Canadian Red Cross Shelter Expert, Rudy Magirena (centre) speaks with an individual staying at the collective distribution centre in the oblast of Cherkasy.

Providing emergency winterization support

Like most parts of Canada, winter temperatures in Ukraine often fall well below 0°C, making humanitarian needs even more dire. 

Winterization efforts included the provision of stoves, generators, boilers, fuel, winter clothing, bedding kits, and towels. In the Poltava, Vinnytsia, and Cherkasy Oblasts, the Canadian Red Cross has been supporting with refurbishment, repairs, and utility bills in several collective centres of this central area of Ukraine where many people who have been displaced by the conflict sought refuge.
Three individuals inspect the roof of a building.
Canadian Red Cross Shelter Expert, Rudy Magirena (centre), inspects the roof at a collective distribution centre in the oblast of Cherkasy. 

“We did all of the ductwork so that the air circulates in a healthier way and the whole building can be heated more efficiently so that people aren't freezing when they're sleeping at night,” says Kelsey Lemon, Vice President, International Cooperation, Canadian Red Cross, about the winterization support provided in the Poltava Oblast. 

In the oblast of Cherkasy, Kelsey visited two facilities that were renovated into single family apartments with support of the Canadian Red Cross. “To me, that's a much, much better solution for people to have dignity and privacy and live like a family should, without sharing bathrooms and kitchens.”
5 people stand in front of a building, holding flowers and a plaque.
Canadian and Ukrainian Red Cross personnel join the Manager of Cherkasy city collective centre to celebrate the opening of the new refurbishment site. 

Collectively, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and National Societies have contributed to assisting more than two million people across Ukraine with improved living conditions through assistance to collective centres or host families. More than 15.2 million people have benefited from improved access to water, and more than 1.6 million benefited from improved access to adequate heating across Ukraine. 

Primary health services – Mobile Health Units

In times of armed conflict, it is critical people have access to primary health care services, including mental health and psychosocial support. The Canadian Red Cross has funded nine Mobile Health Units, providing these services in remote areas of Ukraine. Stetsivka, located in the oblast of Cherkasy and home to roughly 1,000 people, is one of the villages receiving support from a Mobile Health Unit. More than 80 kilometres away from the district's capital and with no method of public transportation, the isolation makes access to health services difficult. 
A member of the Ukrainian Red Cross Society carries health equipment, standing outside of a Mobile Health Unit.
The Ukrainian Red Cross Society Mobile Health Unit visits the village of Mythlashivka, located in the oblast of Cherkasy to provide primary healthcare services. The Mobile Health Unit is being funded by the Canadian Red Cross. 

The unit includes general practitioners and specialists from the Ukranian Red Cross Society who assess patients, dispense free medication, treat minor injuries, and arrange referrals for further care. “Most of the young, able-bodied people have left and so it was older people, people living with disabilities and people with compounding illnesses who really needed the Mobile Health Unit service. They really valued it,” says Kelsey Lemon. 

The Canadian Red Cross has provided funding for over 38,000 primary health care consultations through Mobile Health Units. These units have made a notable 2,200 visits to urban locations and remote villages.

The Canadian Red Cross has also supported the recruitment of social helpers who have been providing home-based care to older adults and people living with chronic illnesses or disabilities.

Psychosocial support in Ukraine

The Canadian Red Cross continues to fund the salary of 15 psychotherapists stationed at the Lviv Clinical Hospital of Emergency and Intensive Care and who have helped more than 1,900 people through more than 9,900 mental health and therapy sessions. 

Dr. Oleh Berezyuk, chief of the psychotherapy unit and one of the psychotherapists at the centre explains that all of the team’s patients are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder in some form. For some people, this manifests as depression and anxiety; for others, it means flashbacks and nightmares. These symptoms often come in waves – patients will have a stretch of good days and then a stretch of tough ones. 

In addition to supporting people staying at the hospital, the team also operates an outpatient treatment clinic. Programming includes talk therapy, art therapy, and full-body therapy. Khrystyna Ruda, the leader of the interdisciplinary team of psychotherapists, tells us that full-body – or psychosomatic – therapy is often used when treating former prisoners of war. After their experiences, they tend to not feel safe in their bodies, and therapy can help with that.
Various colourful art pieces spread out on a table.
Art therapy pieces created by patients at the Lviv Clinical Hospital of Emergency and Intensive Care psychotherapy outpatient program. 

Financial assistance to meet a variety of needs of people and households 

Financial assistance goes a long way to relieve the burden of food and financial insecurity during an armed conflict. Often, people who are impacted use this money to make ends meet, feed their household, and travel to other parts of the country seeking safety. 

Red Cross Red Crescent Movement partners around the globe contributed a total of $474 million CAD in financial assistance. This financial assistance has been distributed to people in Ukraine and surrounding countries to support basic needs, accommodations, and health services. 

Relief items sent to support people living in Ukraine 

As of December 31, 2023, the Canadian Red Cross has sent over 422,000 emergency relief items from Canada. These items include blankets, tarps, and cooking supplies. This has been made possible through donations and support from the Government of Canada.
Three individuals unload mattresses from a truck.
Red Cross personnel unload mattresses for the collective centre in Geronymivka.

As we mark the two-year point of the escalation of the armed conflict in Ukraine, meeting humanitarian needs remains a priority for the Canadian Red Cross and the Government of Canada. 

The Canadian Red Cross remains committed to providing humanitarian assistance to people impacted in Ukraine and neighbouring countries through collaboration with Red Cross Red Crescent Movement partners and the Ukrainian Red Cross society

People living in Canada who wish to support those affected by the conflict can do so by donating to the Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal. Money raised will go to support those impacted in Ukraine and surrounding countries. 

Donor update, as of December 31, 2023

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